On Editing
by James F. Reardon


From the teacher, Jeanette Jeneault: In recognition of 10 years of fine student editing, I thought I would share one of my favorite editing reflections from WRT 340: Advanced Editing, the class that produces the magazine you now hold in your hands. Editing is hard work, but for the many dedicated editors over the past decade, the labor was well worth the outcome. Thank you to one and all.

When I initially signed up for this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Writing Program billed it as an "advanced editing workshop," and I hoped it would be a place where I could exorcise the editing urges I’d collected after two semesters of peer consulting. After continually "working with the writer, not the writing," I was thrilled to deal with something that wouldn’t talk back.

  It wasn’t that easy. My own sense of intrusion spoke in place of the writer’s absence. When I was editing someone else’s work, I had difficulty discerning how much editing was enough. I clutched my head in agony trying to figure out whether, by substituting one single-syllable preposition for another, the writer’s original intent would be compromised.

  I have always believed that despite the existence of four hundred thousand words in the English language, each word has its own special place in a writer’s lexicon. By adding, removing or changing any of the words (remember: out of 400,000), someone else could seriously alter the text in ways no respectable wordsmith would want to consider.

  I got over that and grew some faith, and even some knowledge of the fantastic html computer language, in the process of this class. I think the writers, readers and editors of Intertext would agree that it was for the best.


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